10 NGO's Call For Protecting Religious Freedoms and Ending Sectarian Discrimination on Bahrain's Religious Freedom Day

Bahrainis have always been committed to the principles of tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect and religious freedom. Bahrain has long been viewed as a role-model in the Gulf region for peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths and idealogies. Over half of those living in Bahrain are expatriates, resulting in the country having a very religiously diverse population. The capital of Bahrain, Manama hosts churches, mosques, temples and a synagogue . Many of these religious centers and structures have been in place for decades with large and well-established congregations which have been welcomed by the Shiite and Sunni communities.

Bahrain has always been home to numerous religious communities and non-state actors have spared no efforts in ensuring religous freedom is protected and religious and cultural tolerance is fostered.

However, Bahrain has unfortunately witnessed an alarming rise in extremist ideologies being advocated throughout the region. This rise has created momentum for mass human rights violations committed against the Shia majority in Bahrain. On the 17th of April 2011 the government of Bahrain deliberately demolished a historical Shia mosque (Al-Barbaghy) which dates back to 1549. The demolition of 38 Shia mosques in 2011 was widely condemned internationally however the government of Bahrain has failed to hold those responsible for the destruction of 38 Shia mosques accountable for their actions. The government of Bahrain has also continued to persecute individuals based on their religious identity, political aspirations and social belongings.

On Bahrain’s Religious Freedom Day we, the undersigned, recommit ourselves to

1- Defending and protecting religious freedoms in Bahrain as stated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

2- Demand the protection of religious minorities in Bahrain and defend their religious rights including the right of worship, observance and practice

3- Remember those who have been persecuted, tortured, and murdered for their faith and demand an immediate end to the persecution of the Shia majority in Bahrain

4- Rejecting policies and actions that target people because of their religion or belief and call upon the governemtent of Bahrain to ensure equal enjoyment of human rights by all and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed religious discrimination

5- Calling upon the government to undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating sectarian discrimination in all its forms and promote equal citizenship amongst all Bahrainis regardless of religion or faith

6- Motivate non-governmental organizations to counter the advocacy of sectarian hatred and encourage where appropriate, integrationist multi-sect non-governmental organizations and movements and other means of eliminating barriers between people of different faiths and to discourage anything which tends to strengthen sectarian divisions.

17 April, 2016

1- Bahrain Center for Human Rights
2- Bahrain Society for Human Rights
3- Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
4- Bahrain Human Rights Observatory
5- Bahrain Human Rights Youth Society
6- European-Bahrain Organization for Human Right
7- Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights
8- Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
9- Lualua Center for Human Rights
10- Manama Observatory for Human Rights